AUGUSTA, ME — Maximizing air quality in indoor spaces is a key element of reopening buildings, a driving force behind the development of a new air quality safety training program now available from Maine’s community colleges. The HVAC program is the latest in a series of COVID-19 safety training programs tailored to the needs of certain industries.
The Maine Community College System, Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC) and the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council created this program out of a demand for consistent understanding about the role air flow and ventilation play in the spread of the coronavirus, and the best way to maintain and improve air quality systems. Planners developed the course with K-12 schools in mind, but the program applies to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) issues in commercial buildings. Those completing the program receive an HVAC safety badge.
“We are proud to respond to the needs of our K-12 partners in keeping their students, teachers, and staff safe. These badge pathways help get the pertinent information out there,” said Chris Winstead, director of workforce development at EMCC. Individuals can take the training here.
Maine Quality Centers collaborated with the state Department of Education on the training program to address concerns about ventilations issues in school buildings of various ages and design across the state. It takes about four hours to complete the basic HVAC training. There is one course for school administrators and another for HVAC workers.
“We are grateful for the ongoing partnership with the Maine Community College System and their rapid and timely provision of training in response to COVID-19,” Education Commissioner Pender Makin said. “Our school leaders and facilities managers have been champions for keeping public school buildings open and safe, and this additional resource and information will be invaluable to their ongoing efforts.”
“The program includes practical strategies anyone can take to manage their indoor environment to reduce exposure to COVID-19,” said Christine Crocker, executive director of the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council. “The HVAC program is designed to demystify complex mechanical systems, so that school administrators, educators, and facilities staff can create the best environment possible with their existing equipment. And it’s great for improving general indoor air quality, too.”
Among the material covered in the training is how ventilation can minimize risk of transmission, recommended practices for operating and improving HVAC systems to minimize virus transmission, and basic science about how COVID-19 spreads. Since about 30 percent of Maine schools have only heating systems and rely on natural ventilation for fresh air, the training includes COVID safety best practices for those buildings, including training on the various devices and air handling units that many schools added to increase ventilation.
The HVAC course is the latest in a series of COVID-19 safety courses funded by the Maine Quality Centers (MQC), the short-term training arm of the Maine Community College System. Since last April, more than 10,000 people have completed COVID-19 safety courses developed and launched by MQC and industry partners. Industry specific COVID-19 readiness training exists for workers in the restaurant, lodging, ski, retail and tourism industries.
For more information about the COVID-19 badging programs, contact Dan Belyea, chief workforce development officer for the Maine Community College System.